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What is Middleware and Why Should I Care?

Stefano Marfella,

Extra Red | What is a middleware?

Nothing lasts forever - not even in the IT world. What could help a company become one of the most innovative in its industry and give it an edge over its competitors in the past, today could be inadequate and just be enough to sustain its survival.

Companies that evolve at a fast pace bring with them changes in information systems while also requiring more integration with various internal and external applications and processes.

The solutions introduced to address this evolution are often based on different technologies. On the one hand, when alone, they improve efficiency. On the other hand, this growth in complexity nevertheless leads to an increase in activity to coordinate or synchronize information present in different systems.

For organizations, it's therefore vital to have the ability to move quickly to increase their competitiveness in an increasingly challenging environment.

Companies grow and with  this comes an increase in the amount of data to manage. Existing information systems often give birth to new ones, creating the need for dialogue between them. In addition, in the face of obstacles such as legacy security technologies from suppliers, disparate sources of data and points of contact with customers distributed between physical and virtual spaces, result in the increased need for integration.


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What is Integration?

Integration means connecting various software applications, services, data, and devices through the use of application programming APIs, web services, or other more sophisticated tools such as an Enterprise Service Bus (ESB). Integration can help automate business processes and provide timely and accurate information to users and customers, avoiding, for example, unnecessary steps from one application to the top and improving the second-party experience.

Even today, in companies, due to lack of knowledge about the potential of integration to automate the business or limited budgets, files are still manually transferred by email or shared via a cloud drive or, worse, by using a flash drive.

Over time, similar habits end up increasing complexity. Additionally, time spent on unnecessary activities that could be automated is increased, and companies struggle to handle more and more data. Growth leads to complexity, and only a company-wide integration strategy can help manage it.

Extra Red | What is a middleware?

What is middleware?

To implement integration, a middleware is used, that is, "...a connecting software that consists of a set of services and/or distributed application development environments that allow multiple entities (such as processes, objects, etc.), resident on one or more computers, to interact through an interconnected network despite their differences in communication protocols, local system architectures, operating systems, etc." (Roberto Baldoni, La Sapienza University of Rome).

The term middleware can then used to describe different products that act as a "glue" between different applications. It is distinct from import and export functions that can be embedded in one of the applications. Sometimes it's compared to plumbing because it is a software that connects two applications and transfers data between them. Common middleware categories include:

  • ESB
  • TP monitor
  • DCE environment
  • RPC system
  • Object Request Broker (ORB)
  • Database access system
  • Message Passing

ESB - Enterprise Service Bus:  A great example of a Middleware

Extra Red | The Enterprise Service Bus is a great example of middleware

An Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) is a software infrastructure that's useful for transferring and orchestrating data between the company's various systems. It's based on disparate systems, interconnected with heterogeneous technologies, and provides coordination, security, messaging, intelligent routing, and transformations, acting as a backbone through which software services and application components travel.

The ESB tool is crucial to decoupling applications when they need integration. Let me explain this better: in the case of three applications, it may be easy to create one-to-one integration. However, as the number of applications increases, the number of connectors to be created increases dramatically as well. Through an ESB, each application is integrated exclusively with it, therefore acquiring the ability to integrate its data with other applications connected to the same software infrastructure.

One of the most complete integration middleware platforms is JBoss Fuse. It includes an innovative ESB component, built on the back of several major Open Source projects, including Apache ServiceMix and Apache Camel. This means that this product is supported by a community of more than 15 million developers around the world, which continually add functionality and bug fixes on Open Source platforms.

Red Hat, the world's leading provider of Open Source solutions, has used the core of these projects and gathered them in the JBoss Fuse suite. Red Hat JBoss Fuse is a robust, flexible and easy-to-use platform, and is an effective, lightweight, and fast tool for integrating applications, data and devices inside and outside your business to help you achieve digital transformation successfully. 

Middleware is just one of the pieces of the technology puzzle that growing and future-oriented companies should keep in their mind. In fact, there are several aspects of system integration that a brilliant IT manager or an entrepreneur should know. My colleague Davide Costanza, Extra Red CTO, has simplified the search for you by gathering the main insights into an ebook that you can download for free by clicking here: 2017 IT Trends: Digital Transformation.

Download now: 2017 IT Trends: Digital Transformation

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